Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016

2.2 A Focus on Service Users

The Public Service must continue to assess what it does and where it adds real value, with the focus always being on meeting the needs of service users. It should be able to adapt and to bring better structure to how it plans and delivers services.
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2.2.1 Alternative Models of Service Delivery

Government is committed to driving greater use of alternative service delivery models. New and existing services are being examined to identify the optimal method of delivery. This may include partnerships with private enterprise, voluntary organisations and community groups.

Central to this strategy will be the creation of a new framework of competition for public services. The Public Service must begin to transition away from the traditional system of block grants to organisations providing public services and move instead to a new approach based on releasing funds in return for delivering specified outcomes. To this end, a decision making framework for the planning, design, delivery and management of services is required. Ongoing systems of evaluation and performance management will ensure that the impact of public spending is measured and forms the basis for which services are funded and which are not.
The Department of Social Protection (DSP) will use a new form of service delivery when it rolls out JobPath, a new approach to assisting the long term unemployed to find work. The Department will contract private/third party providers of employment services to complement DSP’s existing public employment service and community based local employment services to provide new and additional support to target long-term unemployment. JobPath will operate on a payment by results basis thus incentivising providers to find work for the maximum number of long-term unemployed people.
The Public Service will undertake more commissioning than in the past. This entails specifying what policy outcomes are needed; planning and engaging with potential providers to decide how these outcomes can be achieved; procuring and contracting to obtain the best value for money; and managing the delivery of services so that users’ expectations are met. Commissioning skills such as these will be a core competency for the Public Service in the years to come and a programme to build managerial capacity and capability in this area will be developed and rolled out over the next five years.
Commissioning skills will be a core competency for the Public Service in the years to come.
Contracting out services to the private sector is just one model of alternative service delivery. The Public Service must also look to other models, such as joint ventures, social enterprises and employee-owned mutuals. These, and other new models, will be a feature of alternative service delivery projects in the future. Communities and individual service users will become more involved in the design and delivery of services, especially social services. Any barriers to the implementation of these alternative models will need to be addressed. New and innovative community-based service delivery models are already being deployed by voluntary organisations in areas such as disability, mental health and care of the elderly and work will be undertaken to build on these successes. This could involve allocating more funds to a competitive process.
Moving services to alternative methods of provision does not alter the fact that Government is accountable to the public for the overall performance of a service. The State retains an essential role in deciding how and to what extent services are funded and in regulating the behaviour of service providers, for instance in areas such as nursing homes, disability services and childcare provision.

A good example of the new approach to service delivery is Social Impact Investing (SII), which involves the use of private capital to fund interventions aimed at tackling social problems. The State agrees to repay the private investor only if set outcomes are achieved. SII offers real potential to ensure economic and social returns for the State, while also assisting the most vulnerable in society. In the coming months, a social impact investing pilot project will be progressed, seeking private sector investment partners to provide long-term sustainable, stable homes for homeless families in the Dublin region. This initiative will focus on ensuring better long-term outcomes for those families concerned. In this case, in order for the final outcomes payments to investors to be triggered, 85% of family households must be successfully re-settled and sustain their tenancies for 6 months after moving. The pilot will be evaluated to extract learning and to determine the wider suitability of SII in the Irish context.
Communities and individual service users will become more involved in the design and delivery of services.
Another example is the Centre for Effective Services (CES), which is a small not for profit organisation. It works across a range of Government Departments and agencies, not-for-profit and community organisations to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. CES works with the whole sector involved in providing these services – Government Departments, organisations, research institutes and individuals who provide services such as social workers, youth workers and teachers – to help them make better use of research information, so that they can improve services. CES works with these bodies to help them to apply evidence of what works from research and practice so that they can develop better policies and strategies for the sector, and better implementation plans. This helps to create systemic change in the sector.

2.2.2 Digital government

Technology moves forward at high speed and over the past three years, there has been a major shift in service consumption models. The habits and behaviour of citizens and businesses have changed as the introduction of consumer technology such as smartphone, tablet and smart TV technology has spread throughout businesses, homes, schools and other public service organisations. For instance, a recent survey by Eircom suggested that in February 2013 there could be as many as 1,655,000 smartphone users across Ireland and that the number of tablet devices in households had more than doubled over the past year.
The ICT Strategy will be centred on three key themes: “design for digital”, “invest to transform” and “build to share”.
In the same way that the private sector has started to exploit the new digital world, the Public Service needs to adapt to this new environment. The development and adoption of new digital services is not an option but a question of how and when.

The Government’s new ICT Strategy will not only build on the existing Government approved approach to eGovernment and Cloud Computing, with a strong focus on accelerating implementation, but also address the evolving area of Digital Government. The ICT Strategy will be centred on three key themes: “design for digital”, “invest to transform” and “build to share”.

The areas addressed under “design for digital” will build on the initiatives already set out in eGovernment 2012-2015 and introduce the appropriate use of “digital by default” to drive improved performance and effectiveness of public services. It will also consider how new digital opportunities and trends in technology, and the resulting trends in society and business and the need for any associated regulation, are to be exploited to deliver a new genre of services.
Where appropriate, a mandated “digital by default” approach will be adopted.
Under the Strategy, the Government will require that officials responsible for policy and operational units within each Department / Office, and organisations under their remit, ensure that all new information and transactional services must be “born digital” and, where appropriate, a mandated “digital by default” approach will be adopted. Government also needs to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the development of new digital services, providing application interfaces so that these new digital services can be more readily accessed.
More effective and efficient concepts such as a citizen / business digital account for public services will be examined. For instance, in the same way that citizens have digital accounts with their bank, with utility companies and online retail vendors, they should be able to view their interactions with the State via a ‘citizen account’.
A citizen authentication system will be developed that ensures the protection of an individual’s data. Selected and approved service suppliers are able to access a ‘single customer view’, which provides a way for public bodies to verify elements of the Public Service Identity dataset. In the same way, citizens should be able to access their own single citizen account to manage certain personal details, such as change of address and to view their own interaction history.
A range of specific applications will be developed to use the Single Customer View platform. This will reduce the time it takes to validate and process a transaction that involves a claim or application by the citizen for public services.

Equally important, a more capable, mobile and digitally engaged public service workforce needs to be developed through a Workforce 2020 plan. Access to new digital services and applications needs to be developed so that public service workers are enabled and have the capability to exploit emerging digital technology to interact and serve citizens in a new, “fit for purpose” and appropriately secure way. In doing this, there is a need to ensure personal data is protected and how best to balance this need with the streamlining of services to the public. A new Data Sharing and Governance Bill will address how Public Services operate in the new digital world and under what circumstances data can be legitimately and securely shared.
Following collation and analysis of data which has been gathered on transactional processes across the Public Service, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer will identify the “Top 20” transactions and address how these can be significantly improved through digitalisation. The initial data analysis suggests that there is significant potential opportunity to reduce the administrative burden on citizens by simplifying and digitalising processes, reduce costs to the Exchequer and improve the sharing and interoperability of services. Further work will now be carried out to validate the initial data received, with the findings to be published by the end of Quarter 1, 2014.
The ICT Strategy will address the need to rebalance spend on ICT towards an “Invest to Transform” approach. Continued resource constraints over several years has resulted in an ICT spend profile where many organisations are in a situation where their spend is heavily weighted towards “keeping the lights on”. There is a ‘technology deficit’ in many places across the Public Service and investment in ICT now needs to be focused on innovation and the modernisation of the ICT estate.
Improved analytics, the appropriate sharing of information between systems and the digitization of high volume transactional services will result in improved customer experience.
There needs to be a focus on continued standardisation, rationalisation and consolidation of ICT back-office systems. Data sharing needs to be adopted as a key principle in the drive to modernise service delivery and the increased use of self-service and a new digital approach to citizen engagement need to be adopted.
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The Public Services Card (PSC) enables more rapid verification of an individual’s identity, significantly reducing both the resources required to do so each time a member of the public applies for a public service and the time taken to process applications. For example, the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Social Protection are already working together to ensure that PSC registrations are shared with regard to the possible alignment of the PSC and driver licence registration processes.

In the short term, the Card will replace the function of the Social Security Card but over the medium term there are opportunities to introduce it in the form of a juvenile variant, a staff card with the potential to include biometric identification, a PIN mailer and the potential to use it for the provision of online authentication that will be needed to apply for certain services.
The key goal of the proposed Data Sharing and Governance Bill is to ensure that citizens are not asked for information time after time that is already held in other parts of the public service system.
In the longer term, there will be opportunities to use it as an EU Residence Permit, Garda Age Card and within a range of other sectors where the need to verify and authenticate, and where an individual application for services is required.
The use of improved analytics and the appropriate sharing of information will improve customer experience. Service users will be able to transact once with Government across a growing range of digital services. Users will have a quicker experience when they apply for their driving licence, apply for benefits, enrol for classes or interact with the health service. In this regard, the key goal of the proposed Data Sharing and Governance Bill is to ensure that citizens are not asked for information time after time that is already held in other parts of the public service system.
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Open data is seen as a major driver for improved transparency, accountability and performance of public services through more informed policy development. The availability of new and more easily affordable data analytics needs to be exploited by the Public Service as it strives to deliver improved performance and outcomes. Furthermore, the commercial value of open data needs to be exploited to foster a range of new and innovative businesses. A range of open data are already available that could be exploited commercially, including data available via Dublinked that provides pedestrian footfall in the city since 2007, data on the quality of bathing water at Fingal’s beaches and data on the WiFi hotspots across the city.

Open data can also be used commercially to develop applications to reduce the cost of energy consumption in buildings, including public service offices, provide links between consumers who care about the things they buy and who they buy from, and even point companies towards specific opportunities to compete for limited Public Service spend.

The “Build to Share” principle of infrastructure sharing is well understood by Government and the Public Service. The introduction of a Government Cloud Network and the Government Cloud Services Catalogue needs to be accelerated in order to release cost and improve performance. A range of other shared information management service delivery platforms will be introduced, underpinned by an appropriate approach to identity management.
The Revenue Commissioners have dramatically reduced the processing time for their PAYE Anytime customers by embedding real-time risk analytics and the Department of Social Protection have also trialled a similar approach designed to improve the response time for claims and reduce fraud.
The use of cloud-based services has had a fundamental and positive effect on the delivery of improved services and new business models within the private sector. In terms of the development of new born digital services, implementation of the Government’s Cloud Computing Strategy and delivery of a Government Cloud Services Catalogue will accelerate uptake of Cloud services across the Public Service and support the focus on “design for digital”.

The procurement of commodity ICT items will be consolidated under the Office of Government Procurement through the ICT Category Council, common licensing agreements will be established and single rate cards will become normal practice.
In Changing how the State provides its services, there is a need to radically change the relationship with the service user.

2.2.3 Improving customer experience

In changing how the State provides its services, there is a need to radically change the relationship with the service user. Engagement with the citizen and business customer must be real and meaningful if service delivery is to meet their needs, rather than a perception of those needs.
A Standard Bank Account pilot project was completed in March 2013. Holding such an account will help to improve financial services for persons who do not currently have a bank account. The report on the pilot project was submitted to Government in December 2013. Following consultation with the relevant stakeholders, the roll-out nationally of a standard bank account will commence in early 2014, with a view to completing the roll-out by end September 2014.
Due to the nature of customers’ interactions with public services, most citizen engagement and customer improvements tend to take place at an organisational level and this will be the focus for change.
Public Service organisations must ensure that their information and transactions are more accessible.
The standard of interaction between the State and the service user will be enhanced through the use of Customer Charters, supported by Customer Action Plans. Public Service organisations will also be asked to consult with their customer bases to identify areas where priority action is required to enhance service delivery.
Examples of sectoral level customer service improvements are set out in Section 3 of this plan. These include, for example, the reduction of waiting times and the development of improved information systems for hospitals; giving parents a greater say in the type of primary schools available in their communities; better citizen engagement by local authorities; and enhanced integration in the justice sector to deliver a more seamless service for members of the public.
Public Service organisations must ensure that their information and transactions are more accessible. The Public Service must simplify the language that it uses when communicating with service users. There must be a stronger focus on, and a commitment to, the use of plain language right across the Public Service so that application forms and information are more easily understood, thus improving the experience of the customer and reducing the requirement for repeated contact. Alongside this, there must be a renewed focus on improving both internal and customer facing business processes. The use of business process improvement techniques should become even more widespread to eliminate unnecessary steps and bureaucracy for service users.
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